The National Academies

NCHRP 17-40 [Completed]

Model Curriculum for Highway Safety Core Competencies

  Project Data
Funds: $394,995
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematic, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Susan Herbel
Effective Date: 4/4/2007
Completion Date: 6/30/2010


The highway safety field draws upon engineering, economics, public law and policy, law enforcement, psychology/human factors, social marketing, medicine, public health, administration, education, statistics, and physics, among others. It is a specialized field created by the landmark Highway Safety Act of 1966. Many of the professionals drawn into the field during the early days have retired or soon will be retiring. The need for professionals to replace them is a serious challenge, and the means of recruiting, educating, and training future highway safety professionals are inadequate. It is also necessary to provide education and training for existing professionals to enhance their highway safety background and/or knowledge. A workshop organized by Institute of Transportation Engineers, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials through the Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety, Federal Highway Administration, and the Transportation Research Board in 2002 clearly defined the seriousness and critical nature of the problem. At the 2003 TRB Annual Meeting, a Joint Subcommittee on Safety Workforce Development was formed to address the issue. To gain a better understanding of the problem, a scan of university highway safety education and training programs was conducted. The scan revealed a lack of broad-based multidisciplinary safety educational offerings at the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels. A more thorough survey of universities found that while there were 6 to 10 programs with graduate offerings, they were typically a single course and did not represent the depth and breadth of coverage needed for educating highway safety professionals.

In light of the findings from that scan, a set of "core competencies" for highway safety professionals was developed (see NCHRP Research Results Digest 302). The core competencies for highway safety professionals are intended to provide a broad framework for educating new safety professionals and training the existing workforce. They represent the fundamental set of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to effectively function as a professional in highway traffic safety. As such, they establish the foundation considered to be necessary for effective performance by all safety professionals, including those specializing in engineering, analysis, public policy, road user behavior, injury prevention and control, and safety management.

To effectively recruit, educate, and train future highway safety professionals and members of the existing work force, there is a need to transform these core competencies into a curriculum that can be applied in various educational and training settings. This instructional tool will guide the delivery of effective training and educational programs for existing and future highway safety professionals.


The objectives of this research are to (1) develop a model education and training curriculum, based on, but not limited to, the core competencies outlined in NCHRP Research Results Digest 302; (2) conduct a pilot test of the curriculum in an appropriate setting; and (3) develop guidelines for curriculum deployment covering multiple educational and training settings.

The research is proposed in two phases. Phase I will review and update the core competencies and learning objectives, establish the organizational structure of the curriculum (segmented into individual modules), produce storyboards for the entire curriculum, and fully develop one module. Phase 1 also involves development of a methodology for curriculum evaluation of a single pilot of the module. Phase II will develop the remaining modules, conduct and evaluate the pilot test, and develop guidelines for implementation of the curriculum in various education and training settings.

Accomplishment of the project objectives will require at least the following tasks.


(1.) Review the core competencies and learning objectives outlined in NCHRP Research Results Digest 302 and, if appropriate, propose revisions that would strengthen or improve the core competencies and learning objectives. (2.) Develop the organizational structure for the curriculum including the sequencing of the learning objectives and modules.  (3.) Develop storyboards for each core competency. The storyboards shall include, as a minimum content, teaching methods (e.g., lecture, interaction groups, case studies, and other creative methods), and a method for assessing student learning. There should be a series of modules covering the core competencies. Each core competency has a number of learning objectives, and the storyboards shall detail how each of these learning objectives will be achieved.  (4.) Fully develop one module. (5.) Develop a methodology for curriculum evaluation and a plan for a pilot test.  (6.) Submit an interim report summarizing the findings of Tasks 1 through 5 including the storyboards for each core competency, the fully developed module, methodology for curriculum evaluation, and plan for the pilot test. (7.) Meet with the NCHRP panel to review the Task 6 interim report approximately 1 month after its submittal. Submit a revised interim report addressing the panel's review comments.

PHASE II  (8.) Develop the remaining modules.   (9.) Conduct the pilot test and evaluate the curriculum.  (10.) Submit a report on the results of the pilot test and outline the proposed modifications to the curriculum.  (11.) Develop guidelines for implementing the curriculum. The guidelines will describe how to use the curriculum for a variety of learning settings. These settings may include, but are not limited to, distance learning, workshops, short courses, and university courses. Also, describe how the curriculum can be deployed for educational purposes such as certificate programs, degree programs, and on-the-job-training (e.g., federal, state, and local governments and the private sector).   (12.) Submit a final report documenting the entire research effort. The final report shall describe how the project was conducted and include as appendices all curriculum and teaching materials. The final product will include the basic instructional materials needed to deliver the curriculum.

Status: The project has been completed and the final report published.

Product Availability: NCHRP Report 667, "Model Cirriculum for Highway Safety Core Competencies."

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